Eating well

Along with regular exercise, a healthy, nutritious diet that includes a wide range of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, pulses, good quality protein and healthy oils is an integral part of your recovery, and a key factor in preventing future ill health.

Ensure an adequate intake of these foods, vitamins and minerals in your diet:

  • fruit
  • fibre
  • vegetables
  • berries, nuts and seeds
  • healthy fats, found in fish, olive oil, avocados
  • vitamin A, found in dairy foods, fish, carrots and spinach
  • vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, apples, cherries and exotic fruits
  • vitamin D, found in nuts, fish oils, eggs, vegetables, grains and cereals (can also be topped up by sensible exposure to sunlight)
  • vitamin E, found in wheat germ, nuts and seeds
  • trace minerals such as selenium, zinc and calcium.


Broccoli and tofu

However, many of these foods in their natural form cause problems for people recovering from bowel surgery, with or without a stoma. Incorporating some of these foods into blended soups and smoothies may be a way to ensure a good intake. If you have trouble digesting fruits and vegetables, you might like to consider taking your vitamins and minerals as a supplement. If you take them in capsule form, bear in mind that if you have an ileostomy and the capsules are ‘time release’, they may not have been absorbed by the time they reach your stoma.


It is important to remember that excessive intake of any vitamin or mineral can have harmful effects. Do speak to your oncologist, clinical nurse specialist or GP before taking any supplements.



Polyphenols (also called phytochemicals) are plant chemicals with health benefits. Research is emerging that some of them have anti-cancer and antioxidant properties, protecting the cells in your body from damage.


Foods known to have a high polyphenol concentration include:

  • Green vegetables cabbage, spinach, broccoli, leeks, onions
  • Salad dark green lettuce leaves (rocket), celery
  • Fruits (especially ripe) pomegranates, kiwis, plums, apples, lemons, apricots, plums, pears, oranges, nectarines, strawberries, bananas, grapes
  • Mushrooms white and wild varieties
  • Dried fruits raisins, prunes, apricots
  • Berries cherries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, goji berries
  • Legumes beans, lentils, chick peas
  • Nuts hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews
  • Herbs and spices garlic, parsley, mint, coriander, thyme, rosemary, turmeric
  • Tea green and black tea